June 19, 2020

One More Futile Round: Fighting Change on Park Drive

 

How many times will we go through this?

Hornby Bike Lane.  Burrard Bridge Bike Lanes (three times).  Point Grey Road.

Same arguments – Carmageddon and business catastrophe confidently predicted – and the same results: no serious negative consequences and a better, healthier city.  And once the temporary bike lanes are in, as Commissioner John Coupar noted, we don’t go back.

There’s an obvious reason for that which, oddly, he didn’t articulate: they worked.  They helped build the city we said we wanted.   (Which, if John has his way, will stop at the borders of our parks.)

Last night before the Board of Parks and Recreation Board, it was the same old debate with a twist.  For those who want to return to the way it was, it’s a fight now on the side of the marginalized, the people who, they say, need most of the asphalt in the park to provide access and parking – meaning by default full Motordom for all, forever.  Definitely what Lord Stanley had in mind.

But here’s the one piece of new information that came out that really is important, by way of Park Commissioner Dave Demers: Park Board staff estimate visitation within Stanley Park is up by 50 percent since May 1.  They have counted 350,000 cyclists over the last 67-day period, compared to about 60,000 vehicle trips in the same period last year, a quarter of which were thought to be using Park Drive as a shortcut to bypass the Causeway. Motor vehicles, in other words, were 17 percent of all trips with something involving wheels.

That increase is extraordinary.  And that’s without tourists in the mix.

But what those opposed to providing a separate lane on the drive seem to ignore is this, at least if they presume much of that increase can be accommodated on the seawall:

A shot from the late 1990s prior to the construction of the Seaside Greenway’s separated lanes and still the condition of some parts of the seawall around Stanley Park.

Inducing congestion on the seawall by trying to avoid vehicle congestion on the drive is going to have some unpleasant consequences.

I was wondering whether the NPA commissioners would have anything positive to say about the need to accommodate this desired growth in walking and cycling in a harmonious way.  But no.  The NPA has made a calculated decision to appeal for the support of people who work up a lather in condemnation of taking space from vehicles – people like Nigel Malkin, quoted here in a CBC story:

Stanley Park Stakeholders — a group of 14 businesses and societies — signed a letter directed at the park board calling for the immediate opening of roadways and the removal of traffic calming concrete blocks. Members say they rely on vehicle traffic for their survival.

“They’re all out of business,” said Nigel Malkin, a spokesperson for the coalition. “We need to stand up.”

You might remember Nigel: he was the populist rabble rouser who did the number on the proposed North Shore RapidBus, especially the section through Ambleside in West Vancouver.  Transit, bikes, greenways – anything that might require the removal of parking or the reallocation of road space he’s loudly against, and looks around for amplification.

So why does the NPA fail to get a good return on their almost personal opposition to bike lanes and their indifference to active transportation (with the exception, I’m glad to say, of some of the new NPA councillors and now the COPE/Green commissioners).  A lot of the people who share the NPA board’s perspective don’t live in Vancouver.   And the people who do live here have, during the pandemic, discovered what they can do with their feet, and they like it.

Those who argue that only a small fraction of Vancouverites and Metro can reach the park without cars I think have missed the impact of the bike network (the physical one, not the all-powerful lobby) made by previous councils (including, ironically, the NPA councils of the 1990s.)  It’s not just privileged West Enders (like me) who come to the park on foot and bike; it’s Vancouverites by the tens of thousands who have discovered that it’s realistic to get there via the Beach Flow Way that feeds them in seamlessly from the bikeways, greenways, slow streets and transit.

As John Coupar observed, once we get a taste of the temporary, we don’t go back.

 

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  1. It is great to see some businesses start to recognize the market opportunity represented by all those people cycling right past their front doors. Pre-pandemic, many people cycling were on the seawall path. On the roads, it is much easier to access those businesses.

    As seen in the Vancouver Sun today, in reference to last night’s vote:

    “I think this is a great initiative,” said Miguel Diaz, the general manager of Stanley Park Brewing, a restaurant and brewpub in Stanley Park.

    Diaz said allowing vehicles in a controlled flow will help their business because patrons who need to travel by car can now visit the establishment. He agreed with not opening all lanes because he would like to see the reopening plan go slowly so that the park is not overcrowded during the ongoing pandemic.

    “It’s a smart way to start, and a good way to reopen,” he said, of the park board’s decision.

    Which is cause for me to make a point of supporting them. I’ll be the one looking for the bike racks.

    1. I find Diaz’s response interesting considering that they were happy to sign their name to the support of the motion of “immediately opening up” again. I did send them an email yesterday telling them I was no longer going to come and visit for mostly two reasons. The first one was the support of the “emergency motion” and the second one was that a pub / bar should not encourage people to drive to them.

      It’s also worth noting that during the winter months when I went there the parking lot right next to them was empty but the place was full. So clearly, they mostly already draw locals.

      I did not get a response and I am not expecting one. But this statement here sounds to me more like damage control than an actual change of heart.

  2. When this sort of tempest whirls through my world, I listen to the noise and can easily spot the focus [cars, cars, cars]. Despite the red herrings and bad-faith bogus arguements. It’s all about asphalt, commuters and entrenched motordom.

    But then I listen carefully to what’s not being said.

    Parks for people, for people to be active in, and the large health implications of this. Not to mention Dr. Henry’s opinion. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200617194510.htm

    Climate change, and a new world where we burn less fossil fuels, and we encourage and support people to find new ways to get around.

    And what the people of Vancouver consistently say they want their city to be like. Witness the DVBIA’s historic swing-around on bike lanes, and of course the results of recent civic elections.

    These are big things, and there was mostly silence around them during this tempest.

    It’s a puzzling indictment of this NPA sub-wing, and of certain elements of Vancouver media.

  3. We did “go back” after the first Burrard Bridge bike lane trial in ’96. “Beginning March 26, 1996, in a six-month trial by the City, one commuter lane was closed to automobile traffic and made into a temporary cyclist lane.[7] However, after one week, the City was forced to revert the lane to its original purpose, due to outrage by some motorists.” per Wikipedia.

  4. Talked to one of the staff last night. The moment the sun comes out, the locals start showing up. Guess how they get their so quickly? You know when the racks are full.

  5. It always amazes me how the Bike Lobby is able to pivot on a dime to suit their cause. Those ocean views, so essential to the demanded bike route around Kits, apparently not a big thing at all now in Stanley Park.

    Let’s not even talk about the laughable premise that this will somehow reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One only has to look at how the Burrard Bike lane “win” backs up traffic along Pacific in the summer to see the fallacy of that argument. You’ll end up with a single line of vehicles snaking around Stanley Park, stuck behind some tour bus.

    Finally, the cavalier dismissal of business’ concerns just reinforces most of those lobbying for this change have never run a business in their life.

    1. “Those ocean views, so essential to the demanded bike route around Kits, apparently not a big thing at all now in Stanley Park.”

      What makes you say that? You can still see a lot of the ocean from there. You can come down the hill and get to third beach. Sure, you don’t have that stretch around Prospect Point, but the reality is that in order to make that section bike and pedestrian friendly would require a massive capital investment in widening the seawall on that stretch. I can already hear your outcry over the millions that would cost and “how much of a waste” you would consider this.

      “One only has to look at how the Burrard Bike lane “win” backs up traffic along Pacific in the summer to see the fallacy of that argument. “

      How are the bike lanes on the bridge causing a backlog on Pacific? The problem there is, very simple, that you have two lanes on Pacific, that turn into…. two lanes on the bridge. Are you suggesting we knock down a few buildings on Pacific to make room for more car lanes?

      “Finally, the cavalier dismissal of business’ concerns just reinforces most of those lobbying for this change have never run a business in their life.”

      Ah yes the usual. Just like Greg Robertson never ran a business. Oh wait he did, but it wasn’t a REAL business because he still didn’t buy into the car lobby’s hysteria over bike paths.

      You guys really need to find a new list of talking points.

    2. Bob posted: “It always amazes me how the Bike Lobby is able to pivot on a dime to suit their cause. Those ocean views, so essential to the demanded bike route around Kits, apparently not a big thing at all now in Stanley Park”

      Kits path issues have not been about ocean views, that is a line that is promoted by opponents of the bike paths there. It is about being in the park, vs being excluded from the park. Being away from the beachfront, both in front of the concession and along Cornwall, has long been promoted by cycling advocates for Kits Beach. In Stanley Park, Park Drive is actually in the park. See the difference? Also, this is a temporary traffic management plan. Lots of angst for a few months of physical distancing requirements. Once the seawall is not so busy, it would be reasonable to talk about people on bikes using it. That is referenced by Park Board staff as well. But not for now.

      And if you are going to meme, it is the All Powerful Bike Lobby (APBL).

    3. Before the Burrard Bridge bike lanes went in, traffic used to back up regularly getting *off* the bridge. If there is any extra backup now getting onto the bridge it is offsets by the improvements getting off.

      Don’t you just love how motorists blame cyclists for the pollution caused by motorists?

      1. Remember when they blamed congestion on Chinese drivers? Before that it was women drivers. Now it’s bike lanes. what will it be next?
        I hope that one day drivers will recognize their own part in contributing to their own collective bad driving experience. The truth is that the cause of congestion is too many cars. That’s it. They can deny it and blame it on alternatives and solutions or other things, and they will but the problem is caused by themselves collectively. It’s just a fact of the laws of physics and of geometry that cars take up a lot of space for the benefits they give. That will not change ever.
        No city anywhere in the world has been able to solve congestion by trying to increase the space given to motor vehicles.
        The only solution is to provide alternatives.

  6. Thanks for noting that “it’s Vancouverites by the tens of thousands who have discovered that its realistic to get there via the Beach Flow Way that feeds them in seamlessly from the bikeways, greenways, slow streets and transit.”

    Living in East Van, I used to hardly ever go to Stanley Park because it seemed such a long, unpleasant and dangerous haul, dodging peds on the False Creek seawall or motos through downtown. Now with Beach Ave open to bikes, it’s fast and direct and safe and invigorating. I’ve been going 2-3 times a week. This is called, accessibility.

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